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Scientology's Influence

Boiling Point
By Akin Ojumu Guardian unlimited April 16, 2000

The cherubic Giovanni Ribisi A man on the fast track

In Boiler Room a group of cutthroat stockbrokers want to make a fortune. The young Wasps cold-call susceptible hicks and persuade them to part with their savings for a fistful of risky shares. These designer-clad predators quote Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko at length and aspire to the kind of opulent lifestyle depicted in hi- hop music videos. Cleverly, the protagonist is the cherubic Giovanni Ribisi, who plays 19-year-old Seth on the fast track. His baby face suggests innocence but his actions prove otherwise. He graduates from running an illegal casino from his apartment to the more profitable corporate scam. The tale of pinstriped youth corrupted resembles Oliver Stone's Wall Street, while the harsh language and office culture recall David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. Unlike Charlie Sheen in Wall Street, Ribisi gives a performance of subtle depth. His phone schmooze is powerfully seductive; not since Tom Cruise's oleaginous agent in Jerry Maguire has anyone been so effective with a handset. Ribisi is also Boiler Room's narrator, a role which he fulfils in another one of this year's critically acclaimed US movies, The Virgin Suicides. His involvement in both films marks the 24-year-old actor as something of an indie movie talisman. He is one of those actors you may recognise but can't quite place. If his face is familiar, it's probably from Saving Private Ryan, in which he plays dedicated medic Wade. He's the one who believes the mission to send eight men to recover the missing soldier is a just one. 'Hey, think about the poor bastard's mother.'

Before the Second World War epic, Ribisi was best known as a hard-working child actor. Teatime television viewers may remember his regular appearances in The Wonder Years, Blossom and My Two Dads. At 18, he decided to pursue serious projects and get a new manager. His mother had previously been in charge of his career. For two years, starting in 1996, he had a recurring part as Lisa Kudrow's suitably kooky half brother in Friends. As Frank Jr, he persuaded Phoebe to become a surrogate mother for him. Despite the exposure, Ribisi regretted the decision. 'It's one of the biggest regrets I've had because it becomes embarrassing for me. I don't want to be controlled or manipulated by fear that my career is going to go into the toilet if I don't take a role.' There have been other recent roles he would rather forget: The Other Sister and The Mod Squad. After heading the cast of Boiler Room , he is back as a supporting player. First, Gone in Sixty Seconds, an action heist movie starring Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Vinnie Jones and plenty of fast cars, and then The Gift, a Keanu Reeves thriller. So the former child star is doing rather well. Like Seth, he is a player with a big future - as long as he keeps his head and doesn't upset his employers.

Source: Guardian Unlimited